Monday 28 November 2011

Gods and Monsters

Last Saturday, I was watching Channel 4 with my hands over my eyes. Tony Robinson's new series called Gods and Monsters was on, and it was pretty scary stuff. The episode was about how medieval people viewed dead bodies, and how they interpreted their observations of what happened to them as evidence of them rising from their graves, walking around like zombies and terrorising villagers. They saw corpses bloated after what they assumed to be big meals, rather than a build up of gases in the intenstines, and heard bodies make noises when they shouldn't. The episode pictured some pretty horrific experiments, including Tony make the beautifully named 'cerebral pate', and recreate stab wounds seeping blood. But I'm not sqeamish about stuff like that...I was watching so gingerly because I knew I was about to see something even more off-putting - myself in a white Tyvex scene suit! I was filmed talking to Tony earlier in the year about how the earliest signs of decomposition could have been misinterpreted by villagers without a clear understanding of the natural processes of taphonomy, which has lead to a variety of myths and legends surrounding the Undead. Tony was charming, and I was lulled into a false sense of security, oblivious to my windswept hair and frankly ruddy complexion. And, well, I'm hoping that the camera, and the scene suit added at least 10 pounds..each. And I think I will be known for a while yet as the lady who talked about farting corpses to Baldrick! If you missed it, you can catch it here on 4OD.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Tweeting for tweet's sake?

I am relatively new to Twitter, but I must say that I am rapidly becoming addicted to it, and have noticed that, if I'm not careful, it can consume many minutes, if not hours, of my day. One thing I have been keeping an eye out for is the use of Twitter by forensic organisations or individuals for science communication, publication or other forensic-related banter. Today I have been alerted to Birmingham Police's FSI day, which can be followed by searching for @brumpolice or #fsi. There's also an article about it here. Now, firstly, let me say that I am a huge fan of science communication and getting more people interested in forensic science, and the idea of virtually following a real life CSI for a day is absolutely brilliant, and I wish I'd thought of it. But, I have some reservations...isn't constantly tweeting their latest movements going to distract the hard-working scientists from the task at hand? Is it not really dangerous (foolhardy even) to tweet exactly what you're doing and looking for at a live crime scene before you've had a chance to reflect on and analyse the evidence? Aren't you alerting potential criminals to your strengths and therefore weaknesses as investigators? Isn't there the chance for a defence lawyer worth his or her salt to get hold of your tweets and say 'you didn't tweet that you did this or that' and therefore you have been remiss? Are their tweets going to be admissable in court? I just think that they might have rushed into this idea for the publicity and outreach, and not thought very much about the potential consequences, that's all.

Monday 7 November 2011

Breaking News! Breaking News!

Want to do a PhD in Forensic Anthropology?

Cranfield Forensic Institute is offering a funded PhD studentship now! Only the tuition and bench fees are funded, so you would have to pay for your own maintenance and upkeep, for 3 or 6 years, depending on whether you were a full-time or part-time student. It is only available for Home or EU students who have not done a previous post-graduate qualification. The subject is "Identification and Quantification of Gaseous Products of Decomposition In Relation to Cadaver Dog Efficiency", which will take place on the new Forensic Fieldwork Facility at Cranfield Forensic Institute.
Please email me at for further details and to see if you are eligible to apply.

Get A Stupid Answer

I have had a great day today, standing out in the cold talking to Greg Foot (Science Junkie) for BBC 3's new offering, 'Ask A Stupid Question'. It was the culmination of two months of hard work, and I think it went quite well. Without giving too much away, I have been helping him answer the question "How long would it take my body to decompose?" - with much gory hilarity and retching! It should be on our small screens in the spring - something to look out for!

Friday 4 November 2011

Defleshing hot pot

Sorry peeps, for the delay in updates. I have been quite busy, preparing for the new term and new modules. At the moment, I am thinking about my Further Forensic Anthropology: Identification module, which covers basic pathology and trauma. I'm currently planning an intersting activity involving stab marks on bone (Health and Safety nightmare!). And since we don't have a bone macerator at work, I'm thinking about using a slow cooker to do the defleshing in. Do you think my boyfriend will mind?